Spring signals a seasonal change when the sun shines directly onto the equator; day and night are equal in length. Spring symbolizes a time of rebirth, renewal and new beginnings.
In Chinese Medicine, the principle of the Five Elements views what is going on in the universe and in our body as happening in five cyclical stages or phases that correspond to the elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each phase corresponds to a specific time, element in nature, and organ.
Spring corresponds to the Wood element, the color green, and the organs of the liver and gallbladder. Energetically we are affected with the change of seasons. To promote good health, Chinese medicine encourages us to adapt to the changes of the season.
In this blog, I discuss some ways that we can transition from the energy of hibernation in winter into growth and expansion energy of spring.
Renewal, Growth and New Beginnings
Spring is that time of year where the energy that has been stored deeply in the earth begins to push outward. We see plants emerging from the earth. The yang energy of nature is coming out from the hibernation of winter.
Springtime is associated with the organ of the liver. The liver is in charge of the smooth flow of Qi or life force in our body and blood in the body to maintain health.
When there is a blockage in the Qi flow, our emotions, our bodies and our sense of well-being is affected. When we are not aligned with our life’s mission and purpose, we can feel stuck. Any stress and strong emotional energy affects the liver organ the most.
Imbalance in the liver organ can manifest as irritability, anger, and even rage. It can manifest in the body as tense neck and shoulders, PMS, menstrual problems, migraines, and poor sleep. An imbalance in the liver can also cause digestive problems because of the relationship of the liver organ with the spleen and stomach organs.
The gallbladder organ is in charge of storing and secreting bile and is in charge of decision making, courage, clarity, and inspiration to follow through with our dreams and aspirations
An imbalance in the gallbladder can manifest as indecision, lack of clarity, being timid, and being discouraged. An imbalance in the gallbladder can affect the quality and length of sleep, waking up early in the morning and not being able to fall asleep again. The gallbladder stores and secretes bile, which is important for the breakdown of fats. An imbalance in the gallbladder can cause digestive issues such as gas and cramping in the abdomen and pain that is referred to the shoulders and back.
Wood can become rigid and unyielding. Spring is a powerful time and invites us to soften and become flexible and relaxed. To become receptive and cultivate our potential for growth and renewal.
Some ways that we can promote the free flow of energy through our bodies to cultivate a feeling of ease, flow and movement is through eating in harmony with the season.
Eat your greens
Green is the color of spring. Leafy green vegetables are rich in chlorophyll, the substance that gives plants their green color and provides them nourishment. What is so interesting is that chlorophyll closely resembles hematin, a substance that forms part of hemoglobin in our body. Hemoglobin is in charge of carrying oxygen in our blood. Chlorophyll and hemoglobin have similar structures except that chlorophyll has magnesium at its center and hemoglobin has iron. This supports what the ancients have known for a long time, that our bodies are a microcosm of what is happening in the Universe. What is true in nature is also true in our bodies.
Leafy or bitter greens, dandelion, chickweeds, baby greens, chard, kale, arugula, and sprouts are all very beneficial to the liver and gallbladder organ.
Eat sweet and pungent flavors
Sweet and pungent flavors benefit Wood and are good to eat in the spring season. Focus on whole foods that are minimally processed and found naturally in nature.
Baby turnips, snow peas, spinach, carrots and beets are good examples of sweet and slightly pungent flavors. Radishes have a slightly pungent, peppery quality that helps move liver qi.
Other spicy and pungent flavored foods include many spring herbs like mint, lemon balm, rosemary, thyme, garlic and ginger.
Make some tea
Chrysanthemum tea is one of my favorites to drink. Chrysanthemum comes in a wide range of colors. The most common ones used in Chinese medicine are the white and yellow chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum (called Ju Hua in Chinese Medicine) helps clear wind-heat which makes it good at the first signs of a sore throat, fever, or cold.
Chrysanthemum is good for the liver. It benefits the eyes and helps alleviate sore, tired and itchy eyes.
Dandelion tea can be made from the leaves, flowers or roots of the plant. The most common you’ll find is dandelion root tea at your local grocery store or tea shop.
Dandelion promotes liver health. It’s used in Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of conditions including breast health, digestive health, and treating various inflammatory and infectious conditions. It has a cleansing action on the body to clear heat and toxins.
Mint tea, Bo He in Chinese medicine, is a calming and relaxing tea that also benefits the liver. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties so it can help relieve symptoms from fever and flu to migraines, dizziness, and headaches. It can also help clear the sinuses. It can be used topically for skin rashes and as an anti-itch solution.
The many benefits of mint are many. It is good for relieving stress and relaxing the nerves. It makes a very pleasant tea that can be steeped from the fresh and dried stems and leaves.